Every great journey might begin with a destination, but it’s almost impossible to set forth without a guide.
For the product manager, a product or feature launch is the destination, the product roadmap, their necessary guide. The product roadmap leads the product team and others through product timelines, feature prioritization, effort estimates, customer feedback, and more.
To help you navigate through the tricky ins and outs of developing and executing your own product roadmap, we’ve pulled from our own resources and those of several trusted product managers and businesses. Consider this your go-to resource for learning more about what a product roadmap is and how to build your own.
What is a product roadmap?
A product roadmap is a visual representation of how products and features are being created within a company. Done correctly, the most important thing a product roadmap does is unite all company teams behind a common goal. They also:
- Explain the “why” behind the product or features being developed (aka the vision)
- Communicate prioritized plans to internal and external stakeholders
- Provide overall direction for the product development process and show how desired results will be achieved
The roadmap’s audience isn’t limited to the product team. On the contrary, it should be shared with executives, other company teams (sales, development, marketing), and even the customer. They should be able to see all roadmap elements (e.g. features) and the rationale behind each one. Clear roadmap visibility helps every stakeholder understand their role in making the product become a reality.
Consider these concepts before building a product roadmap
Before creating your product roadmap, it’s first helpful to understand how the map should be built and what inputs should be considered. The articles in this section are designed to cover roadmap basics and give you a firm foundation for the rest of the resources in this guide.
It’s crucial that your product roadmap be as flexible as possible, especially if you’re an agile organization. Changes in your product or its features will come, and when they do, you must be prepared.
It’s easy to get hung up on the product development plan within your product roadmap, leaving little room for changes or updates. This piece tells you how to avoid viewing your roadmap as a “be all, end all” authority for product development.
For product development to be truly successful, all stakeholders (from leadership to engineering) need to understand what is on the roadmap—and why. For that, collaboration is key.
To create a product roadmap that will achieve company objectives, you first need a product strategy to guide the process. A product strategy framework that includes user insights, clear objectives, competitive analysis, and market analysis will put your product roadmap on track.
Customer feedback is an essential ingredient to the product roadmap as it helps prioritize the right features. This piece shows you how to collect customer feedback and improve your product based on their opinions.
Your product roadmap needs objectives, so you’re not haphazardly developing products without clear goals. Create a variety of objectives and key results (OKRs) from a company level to an individual level.
Make your roadmap objective-driven
Within your roadmap, you will be faced with the task of ordering and prioritizing features. Your goal is to choose the ones that will most resonate with customers. However, between conflicting customer feedback, product team inputs, and stakeholder opinions, it can be difficult knowing which features to prioritize first.
This is why company objectives should guide feature prioritization. Your product is then grounded in higher-level goals rather than on the whim of a team member or one customer’s opinion. Here are some of the best examples and resources for prioritizing your features around company objectives.
A standardized product prioritization process ensures that you can prioritize the best features, align your team on strategy, and avoid random decision-making.
Properly incorporating existing customer feedback into a product roadmap helps you focus on the features that customers actually want and that also hit company objectives.
Feature prioritization is difficult due to multiple factors, such as competing priorities from stakeholders. Here’s how to avoid five common mistakes that threaten your product’s success (including losing sight of objectives).
Not all product prioritization frameworks are created equal. Indeed, the right one depends on your product team and company structure. However, whichever one you choose, each framework offers specific guidelines to help you successfully decide which product or feature to develop next.
The ability to visualize feature prioritization is important. The ability to visualize how your features are being prioritized within an objective is invaluable as you can determine which feature will best hit objectives. Use a prioritization matrix to view the value-effort tradeoff across all of an objective’s features.
Within your product roadmap, you’ll want to organize feature ideas, prioritize what to build and when, and monitor progress towards your product launch. Accomplish all of the above with the help of this article.
Avoiding common product roadmap mistakes
Whether you fail to incorporate user wants or forgo involving other stakeholders in the process, mistakes can happen when building and executing your product roadmap. Here are some resources about the most common mistakes and how to preempt or avoid them.
Your company strategy should already be in place. Now, it’s a matter of connecting this strategy with your product roadmap to ensure that you don’t miss delivering on your product’s promises.
Get your responsibilities as a product manager in order so you can avoid working on the wrong tasks or projects and ensure that your product roadmap is created and carried out successfully.
The alternative title to this piece is, “6 steps to create a nightmare roadmap.” As you might guess, communication can help your team avoid misaligned expectations and assist you in creating a roadmap that resonates with all stakeholders.
Product roadmap case studies
Building a product roadmap isn’t often as cut and dry as it seems. There are many factors and inputs that determine both its development and success. For that reason, we took stock of several different companies, studying how they developed product roadmaps to successfully launch products and features—and the strategies they implemented along the way.
“Give all employees a say in the growth of the product”: Robotic process automation (RPA) company UiPath created a collaborative roadmap based on this philosophy.
Similar to Degreed’s experience, the product roadmap can help companies scale their teams as well as give them the ability to serve a scaling client base.
Livestorm uses productboard to focus on building a new generation of live video and webinar software
Livestorm, a company producing live video software for business, used a data-driven roadmap to drive company tasks at every stage of the product development process.
Multiple stakeholders will view the product roadmap. Like Hypercare, do you have different roadmap versions that various stakeholders can understand and use to develop the product?
Customer insights should have a direct relationship with the product roadmap. Here’s how Slite, a collaborative documentation tool, does just that.
MeetMindful wanted to create a product that revolved around a vision of bringing like-minded people together and removing common challenges in the online dating space. Their product roadmap helped prioritize the right features around this vision.
Product roadmap tools and resources
The right tools and resources are essential in creating a roadmap that helps you achieve product and company objectives. Here are some additional resources.
Essentially a one-stop-shop for developing and executing a product roadmap. Feature prioritization matrixes, effort estimates, company and product objectives—all of this and more is housed under one roof with productboard.
There are different types of product roadmaps that you can build (e.g. the feature-driven product roadmap). Here are four examples to help you determine which one is right for your team.
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Consolidate user feedback, prioritize feature ideas, and rally everyone around your roadmap. Access a free trial of productboard today.